Arriving in New Zealand was almost like arriving back in Australia. The accents were not quite right, but we found many things to be similar. The suburbs of Auckland could easilt be suburbs in Brisbane and many of the Aussie labels can be found in New Zealand too. Sophie was very excited to be able to buy some Vegemite.

Us having lived in Zimbabwe/Australia our whole lives, we’d always been under the impression that New Zealand was an incredibly cold place. We had this picture of a landscape covered with waist deep snow, but in fact, after our exposure to the climates of some places in South America and the States, the New Zealand winter was surprisingly bearable and there was no snow to be seen.

We were picked up at the airport by my old friend Pippa at the horrific time of half past five in the morning. She deserves a medal for this. For three nights we hung out with Pippa in Auckland, exploring some of the city and also travelling a bit north to some amazing black sand beaches, however we spent most of our time at the house recovering from our hectic time in the States.

From there, we pickup up a rental relocation. These are cars that the rental company needs moved to another depot, so they can be rented for a minimal amount, but need to be moved to a particular location within a particular timeframe. Ours was Auckland to Christchurch, so we had four days to drive the car down the length of North Island and a good chunk of South Island. On the booking reciept I was excited to note that our car type was listed as “BMW 3 Series or simialar”, but it turned out to be a Ford Mondeo. Not really similar at all. But still it was a comfy drive, albiet expensive with fuel at NZ$1.80/litre. There was a quite a lot of driving but just seeing all the rural scenery along the way made it worthwhile.

Rotorua was amazing, with sulphurus smells and clouds of geothermal steam rising all over the place. At Kersene Creek we spent a bit of time trying to find a hot pool to swim in. There were hot springs all over the place, but all were either too hot or too cold. Still, it was heaps of fun traipsing through the bush and trying to build pools from rocks while being scorched and chilled at the same time. We did find a beautiful hot creek near Lake Taupo the next day and had an amazing hot bath in the morning mist.

From there it was on to Palmerston North, where we stayed the night with another mate of mine. He took us up to see the wind farm up in the hills where we watched the huge 35m windmills spin eerily as the sun went down. The view of the landscape up there was amazing too. Later we had fun night with him and his mates, but after “Flight of the Conchords” it’s so hard to listen to a New Zealander say anything while keeping a straight face. The next morning we drove the last of North Island to Wellington, jumping straight onto the ferry to Picton.

In Picton we stayed with some really old family friends, who we worked out, I hadn’t seen for fifteen years! They own the “Creek Pottery Gift Shop” and the pub “The Flying Haggis”, so if you’re passing though, stop in for a beer at the Haggis.

The next day we were taken on a most lovely tour of the wine growing area near Picton. The Marlborough Region produces some great wines and we stopped to sample many of them, as well as having a really delicious lunch at one. The area itself was beautful with its rows of wines, trees aflame with autumn colours and distant blue mountains in all directions.

We had another great night drinking wine and reminiscing all of the stoies from when I was a boy of 12 living in Malawi. The next day though we were up in the dark to complete our last leg to Christchurch. We stopped briefly at Kaikoura to have a coffee and see a colony of New Zealand seals. As usual we arrived with just a few minutes to spare. At the depot we exchanged our relocated Ford Modeo for a rented Campervan and immediately set off again.